Norwegian singer-songwriter Jenny Hval started out disguised under the moniker
Rockettothesky with the verbose and rudimentary
To Sing You Apple Trees (Trust Me, 2006), containing the
rocking Barrie for Billy Mackenzie
(like Alanis Morissette covering the Cranberries), the piano elegy On Cherry Tree Song, and good demonstrations of her ability to transition smoothly
from spoken-word to bluesy/yodeling styles (I Stepped On A Toothbrush for only voice and guitar).
Rockettothesky's second album Medea (Trust Me, 2008), produced by
Supersilent's Helge "Deathprod" Sten,
marked significant progress in terms of arrangements and structures, resulting
in a more eclectic panorama: evocative
pop (Song of Pearl), exotic synth-pop
(The Dead Dead Waterlily Thing) and a unique form of acid folktronica
(the lengthy, sparse, spectral, spaced-out Chorus for voice and electronic
with a peak of pathos in the crystal hymn of Grizzly Man, that harks
back to catacombs and convents.
If those first albums were mainly meant as a display for her virtuoso melismatic vocals,
Viscera (Rune Grammofon, 2011), arranged with
Havard Volden (guitars and psaltery) and Kyrre Laastad (percussion and keyboards),
upped the ante dramatically.
After the etheral Engines In The City, the album delivers seven
mid-length meditations/confessions a` la
This time the music is a calculated surgical factor: a
suspenseful, harrowing soundscape for the theatrical recitation of Blood Flight,
delicate strumming for the ecstantic convent-like chanting of How Gentle,
an almost psychedelic tide embraces the dejected, languid lament of Golden Locks,
eerie background noise transpires from the silence of the whispered a-cappella eight-minute soliloquy This Is A Thirst.
It is not only atmosphere: the childish narration of
Portrait Of The Young Girl As An Artist uses a
monotonous clockwork rhythm that suddenly soars into a grunge-y riff
(and its coda disappears in a vortex of cosmic noise);
echoes of ancient Irish elegies transpire beneath the calm surface of
Milk Of Marrow,
and the haunting Black Morning/ Viscera harks back to even older
The arrangements on
Innocence Is Kinky (Rune Grammofon, 2013)
are a bit too sophisticated, pushing the feathery
Innocence Is Kinky into soul-jazz ballad territory before it explodes
into garage-rock hysteria.
The textures of many songs are thinner and sparser than ever.
Nonetheless, the effect can be mesmerizing, angelically introverted in
Mephisto In The Water, tensely hypnotic in
almost raga-psychedelic in The Seer,
and cosmically abstract in Oslo Oedipus.
And there is room for "rocking" moments like the
uptempo I Called, disfigured by a distorted synth, and
the careening I Got No Strings, a display of her melismatic style.
Unfortunately, Hval indulges in
theatrical declamation (Renee Falconetti Of Orleans,
Is There Anything On Me That Doesn't Speak?)
that is not adequately supported by the music.
The songs are short, having abandoned both the elaborate soundscapes and the
repetitive structures of Viscera.
Meshes of Voice (2014) documents a 2009 collaboration with
fellow Norwegian singer/songwriter
Susanna Wallumrod, ostensibly
inspired by Maya Deren's surrealist film "Meshes Of The Afternoon" (1943).
Very few of the duets work (Milk Pleasures) and very few of the
arrangements make any difference
(the shroud of dissonance in Black Lake).
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